Sunday, September 14, 2014

Please attend this yoga workshop if you can

Before I go on to say what I'm about to say in this post, I'll just come right out and confess to you that this entire post is a pretty shameless yoga workshop sales pitch. But some things are worth selling and making a pitch for, and this is one of them.

So here's the deal: I'm going to Bozeman, Montana, over the weekend of September 26th to 28th, to attend a workshop with Bhavani Maki at the Ashtanga Yoga School of Montana.

Bhavani with Guruji and Sharath, Mysore 1997
[Image taken from Ashtanga Yoga Kauai]

Bhavani is presently based in Kau'ai, Hawaii. She is an international yoga teacher who has been authorized to teach Ashtanga yoga by Guruji, as well as by Baba Hari Dass of Hardwar, North India (okay, I've no idea who this guy is, but he sounds pretty awesome). Bhavani has also studied Sanskrit in Mysore with Professor Narayanacharya. She also recently published a book, The Yogi's Roadmap. In this book, she offers unique contemporary insights into the Yoga Sutra, linking the ancient teachings of this text with our modern understanding of psychology and the emotions.

I met Bhavani briefly back in the summer of 2007 on Maui, when I was attending one of Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane's asana intensives at their studio. They invited Bhavani to be a guest teacher for one of the sessions. She led us through chanting some passages from the Yoga Sutra, and then gave us a brief lecture. She has a wonderful presence and a most beautiful voice. In addition, I have also heard that she is a wonderful teacher of asana, although I have yet to experience this personally.

Well, hopefully, I will get to experience this very soon in Bozeman. Why hopefully? Well, as of right now, the workshop is under-booked, and there's a possibility that it might not happen. Well, I don't want this to happen, for very obvious reasons. So I'm going to say a couple more things to (hopefully) entice you to come to this workshop. First, as you can surmise from the above, Bhavani is a great teacher who brings a wealth of cultural and psychological insights to the yoga practice and tradition. Your practice will definitely deepen and broaden as a result of studying with her. Secondly, but perhaps only a little less importantly, if you attend this workshop, you will finally get to meet me, if you haven't already have had the good fortune of doing so :-) Yes, me, as in Nobel of Yoga in the Dragon's Den, whose jumpbacks and considerable floating abilities are rocking the world even as we speak...

Anyway, I guess I better stop now before this post becomes an egomaniacal rant about my powers. But you get the point: If you are anywhere in the United States, and especially if you are within 500 miles of Bozeman, MT, please do consider coming to this workshop. It will be fun and insightful and... fun. Details about the workshop can be found here.  

Maybe I'll see you in Bozeman soon? ;-) 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sexual fantasies, false consciousness

A few evenings ago, I got together with some friends at the house of my friends J and L. There were five of us present: J, L, S, M and myself. After a few drinks, the conversation turned to the subject of sexual fantasies. There is some kind of rational professional rationale for talking about this subject, because J is a sociologist who does research in sexual deviance. In fact, I often have the feeling that J often uses his friends as impromptu and unofficial study subjects for his ongoing ruminations relating to his research.

Anyway, at one point in the conversation, J claimed that all people, no matter what their sexual orientation, have had fantasies about doing something sexual with somebody of the same sex at at least one point in their lives. Upon hearing this, M, who is a heterosexual female (as far as I know), objected that she had never ever had any sexual fantasies involving somebody of her own sex.

S immediately responded to M's objection with a very resounding "Bullshit!". S might be described as a predominantly heterosexual male who has, by his own admission, also had a couple of sexual encounters with members of his own sex. I do not know what M's internal reaction was to S's calling bullshit on her; after a few drinks, my social perception is usually less acute than it normally is... well, actually, my social perception even when sober isn't really all that acute either. But that's a story for another day. In any case, J immediately seized upon S's pronouncement of "Bullshit", and went on to expound what I understand to be a certain neo-Marxist socio-theoretical view. According to this view, as I understand it, a person's thoughts and feelings about things are really just epiphenomena that are parasitic on physical events and happenings. Well, I suppose a bit of explanation is in order here: To say that feelings and thoughts are epiphenomena is to say that feelings and thoughts really have no effect on events and happenings in the world, even though the person who is experiencing these thoughts and feelings might nevertheless have the illusion that her thoughts and feelings are affecting events and happenings. This view is neo-Marxist, because it is influenced by the Marxist view that many ideas (like religious ideas, for instance) have no effect on the progression of history, but are nevertheless seen by their adherents as having such an effect. Which is why Marxists typically believe that religion, being such an illusion, is the opium of the people, and that religious adherents are sufferers of false consciousness who must be rehabilitated or re-educated.

J, as I understand it, meant to apply this socio-theoretical view to explain why M might persist in believing that she has never had any sexual fantasies involving somebody of her own sex. The upshot is that if M claims that she has never had any same-sex sexual fantasies, then she must be suffering from some kind of illusion or is under the sway of false consciousness. Hmm... does this mean that M needs to undergo some kind of rehabilitation or re-education?

Leaving aside the question of whether or not M is in need of rehabilitation or re-education, I think you might be able to see that there are certain problems with this neo-Marxist socio-theoretical view. For one, if all thoughts and feelings are epiphenomena, then I think it is safe to say that about 99% of the human race suffer from some kind of illusion or false consciousness, since I'm pretty sure that about 99% of human beings believe that their thoughts and feelings do affect the course of events in the world. Wouldn't that mean that 99% of human beings need to be rehabilitated or re-educated? I'm sure you can see that this is patently absurd.

Moreover, even if this theory happens to be true, it still wouldn't explain why all people have had same-sex sexual fantasies, even if they aren't consciously aware of it. In order to be able to say that all people have had same-sex fantasies even if they aren't consciously aware of it, we would have to invoke some kind of Freudian theory of the subconscious or unconscious (or whatever the appropriate term is here), which would presumably explain how it is that people can have sexual fantasies without ever knowing that they have had them. Which means that if we want to be able to convincingly explain how all people have had same-sex fantasies, we would have to have some kind of hybrid Freudian-Marxist theoretical construct...

I don't know about you, but my head is really beginning to spin at this point. Which means I should probably quit writing right now, and go get something to eat. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about any or all or some of what I have written above, I'd love to hear from you.       

Friday, September 5, 2014

Practicing with my silhouette

I haven't written anything about my practice in a while, mainly because practice is just this wonderful thing that goes on in the background of my life. It's sort of like the A/C or the heater; it hums happily in the background, doing its work and providing me with strength and comfort. What's there to say or analyze about it?

But this morning's practice might be worth saying a couple of things about. So when I practice, I usually shut the blinds in the living room before I begin, so that the sunlight doesn't stream into the practice space. It's not that I am afraid of sunlight; rather, I do this because otherwise, my body will cast its shadow on the wall of the practice space, and then I will always be tempted to look at the shadow of my body as it goes through the asanas on the wall. Which is obviously a drishti violation, but I also can't help feeling that it takes energy away from what I should be focused on (i.e. what is going on within my own body and mind).

But this morning, I forgot to shut the blinds before practice. By the time I noticed this, I was already in the standing postures. I decided that going over to shut the blinds and then resuming the practice would be too annoying and would disrupt the flow that I had going, so I just ignored it. What followed was... interesting. Because of the sunlight shining directly into the practice space, I was treated to the sight of my body moving in and out of various asanas throughout the practice. Damn... I didn't know my practice silhouette looked so good... especially when I was going into Kapotasana... And yes, I do know that all these are serious drishti violations, I don't need to be reminded of that ;-)

But at the same time, I felt that because I was constantly distracted by my silhouette, I was putting less focus and mental energy into the asanas. I have always believed that where one's gaze is is also where one's energy is directed, so all this pretty much confirms what I have always believed.

The other interesting result of this silhouette-gazing is that my practice speed somehow speeded up as a result: It took me only an hour and thirty-one minutes to get through half of primary and second up to Karandavasana (it usually takes me about an hour and forty minutes to get through this sequence). I'm guessing that gazing at my silhouette probably had a motivating effect on my practice, causing me to move faster than I normally do. Which may be a good thing (or not, I don't know). But either way, I probably won't try practicing with my silhouette again. Note to self: Always shut blinds before starting practice. Gee, I wonder how all those people practice in gyms with mirrors on all four walls. Must be really, really distracting...